Mastering the Juggling Act: Three Strategies for Balancing School, Work and Life

Greetings hackers! As I write my first post for Hack Library School, I am also beginning my first full semester at Catholic University’s MSLIS program. It’s been some time since I’ve been in school, and I’ve found myself wondering just how I’m going to keep it all together as I work full-time at a public library and go to school part-time. And I imagine I can have a social life in there somewhere, right?

I found some great advice on this very site, from tips for your first semester of library school, to advice for returning and new students, and tackling the self-doubt that comes from wondering if you’ve really made the right life choice by taking on a Master’s degree in addition to everything else in your life. But I still haven’t quite found the answer to the question how do I keep school a priority when I work 40 hours a week without ignoring my friends and significant other? Here is what I came up with:

  1. Research what your employer does to support staff continuing education. Employers are generally in support of furthering the education of its staff, especially if what they plan to study will benefit them as an institution. Talk to your supervisor or your HR representative about what they do to support their employees who are in school. Some employers provide paid time off to attend classes or will give tuition assistance. If nothing else, your employer may allow you to flex your work time so that you may attend classes and make up your work time later in the week.
  2. Join listservs and email lists to stay in the know with school organizations. Really want to join that student organization, but know that you’ll never be able to make meetings because they are scheduled during work hours? This can be especially challenging if you commute to your campus. If you can work out attendance with your employer, definitely do! If you can’t, contact the group organizer and see if you can get on their email list, so you can stay looped in with what’s happening. Ask if you can get an copy of the meeting agenda, so that you may send your thoughts via email. Additionally, you might see if there is a way you can take on a task to help the group but allow you to work remotely, such as compiling the group newsletter or email blast. Additionally, most schools have their own listservs so you can keep abreast of all kinds of communications happening within the department. Contact your advisor or student organization leader for information about joining your campus listserv.
  3. Stay organized! I suppose this should go without saying, but staying organized is the only way you will be able to juggle all of these things. Buy a planner and write in all of your class times, work obligations and due dates of major assignments. Then, step back and see what you have to work with. Plan time each day to work on assignments and reading, and also to relax and spend time with loved ones. Check off each accomplishment as you complete it. I have found having this visual representation of my time makes it much easier to structure my days, and I don’t have to worry about having enough time to work on major projects, since I’ve already scheduled it. Once you’ve made your schedule…stick to it! Be open with family and friends about the time you need for school and work, and let them know you’ve still got time for them too.

What work/school/life balance strategies work for you?

6 replies

  1. I worked a full time job and a part time job through library school. Doing the program online helped, since it was more flexible. My biggest piece of advice is try to schedule at least one night off per week. When I was in school I would typically work all day and then do my school stuff in the evening and on weekends, but every Friday night I would try to leave completely open so I could still have a bit of a social life. 🙂

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